On Stockholm streets filled with a vast fleet of classic American cars, one particular tall ship – a very tall one indeed – towers over the rest. Here, any American full-size van sits higher than almost all other vehicles on the road, aside from a few jacked-up 4x4s; when the van is itself a jacked-up 4×4, its driver sits in rarefied air. This 1980s Dodge Ram is from that uncommon class of vehicle that is rare in the United States, and even rarer in Europe.
Like many types of classic American cars, full-size vans more than a quarter-century old are surprisingly numerous in Sweden, where it is not unusual to see Ford Econolines, Chevrolet Beauvilles and Dodge Rams from the 1980s in regular use as passenger vehicles or cargo haulers. Standing out from this crowd requires something extraordinary, and this Van Charger 4×4 conversion is that.
The Van Charger was a Dodge Ram 4×4 conversion by Pathfinder Equipment Co., which made them from 1976 to 1990. Pathfinder also made Ford Econoline “Quadravan” and Chevy/GMC “K-Van” conversions in the 1970s and 1980s before going out of business in 1992. Any of them is an excellent choice for transporting a large number of lanky Swedes through deep snow during a Scandinavian winter.
Here is the business end of the Van Charger conversion, a Dana 44 solid front axle with 15-inch tall coil springs. The rear end used the standard axle and leaf springs with 3 3/8″ lift blocks. There was a full-time 4WD system using a New Process 203 transfer case from 1976 through 1984, followed from 1985 to 1990 by a part-time system using either a Borg Warner 1345 or New Process 205 unit.
The Van Charger’s owner did not appear, so I could not get the story behind it; however, I might actually have found it randomly during an internet search. It may be the same Van Charger whose new owner described, in a four-year-old message board post, as a 1988 that was exported to Sweden in 1989. If this is the same van, it has spent almost a quarter-century in Sweden, enduring 24 winters of snow with its 4×4 system making it someone’s go-to winter vehicle. Rust, dents and missing trim pieces are reminders of those years. Clearly, it’s still in regular use, being moved around constantly and parked outside–another hard-working American classic earning its living on the streets of Sweden.